Why Don't More Conductors Take Up The Nielsen Symphonies ?

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THEHORN
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Why Don't More Conductors Take Up The Nielsen Symphonies ?

Post by THEHORN » Sun Mar 07, 2010 7:05 pm

There have been a fair number of cycles of the Nielsen symphonies on recordings, and also individual versions by conductors who did not record all of them : for example, Blomstedt, Berglund, Neeme Jarvi,
Theodore Kuchar, Adrian Leaper, Rozhdestvensky, Salonen, Jukka-Pekka Saraste, Eduard Serov, Michael Schonwand, Ole Schmidt, Bryden Thomson, and individual ones by Bernstein,Karajan,Horenstein, Chung,
Martinon etc.
But unfortunately, you don't get a chance to hear them live all that often. I hear that Alan Gilbert is doing the 2nd, or "Four Temperments" next season with the New York Phil, which as far as I can remember has not been done there since Bernstein in the 70s (also recorded).
Leon Botstein did it not too long ago with the Amnerican Symphony .
I wish more conductors would perform and record these wonderful and unique symphonies. Maazel, long champion of Sibelius, has never done them as far as I can tell, nor Abbado, Boulez, Chailly, Barenboim(he's recorded the violin concerto with I believe Vengerov on Teldec),
Sir Colin Davis has recently done them with the LSO and I hear these will be released on the LSO label, which is very good.
How about it, Eschenbach, Gergiev, Haitink, Levine, Muti, Nagano, Jurowski,
Mackerras,Masur, Zinman, Dohnanyi, Pappano, Welser-Most, etc ?
Dudamel has conducted Nielsen in Gothenburg and I hope soon in L.A.
Enough of the same old Beethoven,Brahms,Tchaikovsky , Schubert,Schumann, Sibelius, etc symphonies,wonderful as those are.
But things are better for Nielsen today than in the past, when Koussevitzky,Toscanini, Beecham, Klemperer, Szell, Furtwangler, Stokowski,Reiner, Mravinsky,
Mengelberg,Monteux,Munch, Rodzinski, and other podium giants were
totally unaware of this great Danish composer. (Actually Furtwangler did conduct the 5th in the 20s , and Stokowski recorded I believe the 2nd).

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Re: Why Don't More Conductors Take Up The Nielsen Symphonies ?

Post by John F » Mon Mar 08, 2010 8:15 am

Seems it's mainly Nordic conductors who program Nielsen's music, just as it's mainly American conductors who program Copland's, and English who program Tippett's. No doubt Nielsen's cause is handicapped by the lack of major Danish conductors to promote his music; can anyone name a Dane who's had a notable international career?

Nielsen's 4th has gotten a number of New York Philharmonic performances, led by Bernstein, Salonen, Blomstedt, and Oramo, and the 5th by Bernstein, Ozawa, Andrew Davis, Dutoit, and Vänskä, so it's not as if he's been utterly neglected here.
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DavidRoss
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Re: Why Don't More Conductors Take Up The Nielsen Symphonies ?

Post by DavidRoss » Mon Mar 08, 2010 8:44 am

John F wrote:...can anyone name a Dane who's had a notable international career?
Thomas Dausgaard at present.
"Most men, including those at ease with problems of the greatest complexity, can seldom accept even the simplest and most obvious truth if it would oblige them to admit the falsity of conclusions which they have delighted in explaining to colleagues, which they have proudly taught to others, and which they have woven, thread by thread, into the fabric of their lives." ~Leo Tolstoy

"It is the highest form of self-respect to admit our errors and mistakes and make amends for them. To make a mistake is only an error in judgment, but to adhere to it when it is discovered shows infirmity of character." ~Dale Turner

"Anyone who doesn't take truth seriously in small matters cannot be trusted in large ones either." ~Albert Einstein
"Truth is incontrovertible; malice may attack it and ignorance may deride it; but, in the end, there it is." ~Winston Churchill

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karlhenning
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Re: Why Don't More Conductors Take Up The Nielsen Symphonies ?

Post by karlhenning » Mon Mar 08, 2010 9:35 am

THEHORN wrote:There have been a fair number of cycles of the Nielsen symphonies on recordings . . .
But the number is only "fair" (i.e., less than good; not fair as in equitable).
THEHORN wrote: . . . I hear that Alan Gilbert is doing the 2nd, or "Four Temperments" next season with the New York Phil, which as far as I can remember has not been done there since Bernstein in the 70s (also recorded).
Part of me wants to say too bad . . . I do like all six symphonies, and I agree that the Nielsen drought in US concert halls is a disgrace (Wale, we're all loaded up with Brahms here) . . . but the Second (which, sure, is an obvious programming choice because of the 'four temparements' program-music 'wedge') is consistently my least favorite in the set, c’est-à-dire I think more highly musically of each of the other five . . . and often much more highly.

Cheers,
~Karl
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Re: Why Don't More Conductors Take Up The Nielsen Symphonies ?

Post by slofstra » Mon Mar 08, 2010 11:00 am

If there are 6 symphonies, then Blomstedt did record all of them, with the Danish Radio Symphony Orchestra. There's a very fine 7 CD set including the symphonies and a great deal more, EMI #19429.

I agree that it would be great to hear more live. I think the main reason is that it's not a name concertgoers are familiar with. Our local symphony has programmed Sibelius from time to time, but people do recognize that name.

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Re: Why Don't More Conductors Take Up The Nielsen Symphonies ?

Post by karlhenning » Mon Mar 08, 2010 11:08 am

slofstra wrote:If there are 6 symphonies, then Blomstedt did record all of them, with the Danish Radio Symphony Orchestra.
Yes, and yes. Blomstedt recorded a second complete set in San Francisco, too.

Cheers,
~Karl
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DavidRoss
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Re: Why Don't More Conductors Take Up The Nielsen Symphonies ?

Post by DavidRoss » Mon Mar 08, 2010 11:11 am

slofstra wrote:If there are 6 symphonies, then Blomstedt did record all of them, with the Danish Radio Symphony Orchestra.
Blomstedt also recorded the cycle, together with other orchestral works, with the San Francisco Symphony. These are fine recordings that received as much critical acclaim as Michael Schønwandt's all-Danish cycle for Da Capo.
"Most men, including those at ease with problems of the greatest complexity, can seldom accept even the simplest and most obvious truth if it would oblige them to admit the falsity of conclusions which they have delighted in explaining to colleagues, which they have proudly taught to others, and which they have woven, thread by thread, into the fabric of their lives." ~Leo Tolstoy

"It is the highest form of self-respect to admit our errors and mistakes and make amends for them. To make a mistake is only an error in judgment, but to adhere to it when it is discovered shows infirmity of character." ~Dale Turner

"Anyone who doesn't take truth seriously in small matters cannot be trusted in large ones either." ~Albert Einstein
"Truth is incontrovertible; malice may attack it and ignorance may deride it; but, in the end, there it is." ~Winston Churchill

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josé echenique
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Re: Why Don't More Conductors Take Up The Nielsen Symphonies ?

Post by josé echenique » Mon Mar 08, 2010 11:37 am

And Nielsen isn´t the only major Danish composer relatively neglected, there´s also Hakon Börresen (born 1876, Nielsen was just a little bit older, 1865) whose 3 symphonies, especially #2 and 3 deserve to be better known. He was more traditional than Nielsen, but more immediately pleasing too. His symphonies have been recorded in the Da Capo and CPO labels, the CPO are especially fine, and if you fancy post-romanticism you will love them.

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Re: Why Don't More Conductors Take Up The Nielsen Symphonies ?

Post by DavidRoss » Mon Mar 08, 2010 11:39 am

josé echenique wrote:And Nielsen isn´t the only major Danish composer relatively neglected, there´s also Hakon Börresen
Major composer?
"Most men, including those at ease with problems of the greatest complexity, can seldom accept even the simplest and most obvious truth if it would oblige them to admit the falsity of conclusions which they have delighted in explaining to colleagues, which they have proudly taught to others, and which they have woven, thread by thread, into the fabric of their lives." ~Leo Tolstoy

"It is the highest form of self-respect to admit our errors and mistakes and make amends for them. To make a mistake is only an error in judgment, but to adhere to it when it is discovered shows infirmity of character." ~Dale Turner

"Anyone who doesn't take truth seriously in small matters cannot be trusted in large ones either." ~Albert Einstein
"Truth is incontrovertible; malice may attack it and ignorance may deride it; but, in the end, there it is." ~Winston Churchill

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maestrob
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Re: Why Don't More Conductors Take Up The Nielsen Symphonies ?

Post by maestrob » Mon Mar 08, 2010 11:46 am

THEHORN:

Yes, Stokowski did record Nielsen II: it's available here, along with some great early stereo stuff, including the Tristan pastiche with Philadelphia, in glorious 1960 stereo:

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http://www.amazon.com/Leopold-Stokowski ... 556&sr=1-3

Grab this before it goes out of print!

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Re: Why Don't More Conductors Take Up The Nielsen Symphonies ?

Post by josé echenique » Mon Mar 08, 2010 11:48 am

DavidRoss wrote:
josé echenique wrote:And Nielsen isn´t the only major Danish composer relatively neglected, there´s also Hakon Börresen
Major composer?
Major...yeah, I would say so, don´t you think?

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Re: Why Don't More Conductors Take Up The Nielsen Symphonies ?

Post by DavidRoss » Mon Mar 08, 2010 12:07 pm

josé echenique wrote:
DavidRoss wrote:
josé echenique wrote:And Nielsen isn´t the only major Danish composer relatively neglected, there´s also Hakon Börresen
Major composer?
Major...yeah, I would say so, don´t you think?
I don't know his work at all, so would be interested to "discover" a major composer previously unknown to me. I wonder, however, whether we agree about what makes a composer "major" in our eyes. I'm trying to listen to some of his music via Naxos, but for some reason am having a hard time logging in!
"Most men, including those at ease with problems of the greatest complexity, can seldom accept even the simplest and most obvious truth if it would oblige them to admit the falsity of conclusions which they have delighted in explaining to colleagues, which they have proudly taught to others, and which they have woven, thread by thread, into the fabric of their lives." ~Leo Tolstoy

"It is the highest form of self-respect to admit our errors and mistakes and make amends for them. To make a mistake is only an error in judgment, but to adhere to it when it is discovered shows infirmity of character." ~Dale Turner

"Anyone who doesn't take truth seriously in small matters cannot be trusted in large ones either." ~Albert Einstein
"Truth is incontrovertible; malice may attack it and ignorance may deride it; but, in the end, there it is." ~Winston Churchill

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josé echenique
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Re: Why Don't More Conductors Take Up The Nielsen Symphonies ?

Post by josé echenique » Mon Mar 08, 2010 12:24 pm

DavidRoss wrote:
josé echenique wrote:
DavidRoss wrote:
josé echenique wrote:And Nielsen isn´t the only major Danish composer relatively neglected, there´s also Hakon Börresen
Major composer?
Major...yeah, I would say so, don´t you think?
I don't know his work at all, so would be interested to "discover" a major composer previously unknown to me. I wonder, however, whether we agree about what makes a composer "major" in our eyes. I'm trying to listen to some of his music via Naxos, but for some reason am having a hard time logging in!
Well, he was not really a "major" composer like Mozart, Beethoven or Brahms, but among Danish composers, he was one of the most remarkable. Try to hear his Symphony #2 "The Sea" it´s a very nice work.

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Re: Why Don't More Conductors Take Up The Nielsen Symphonies ?

Post by MJWal » Mon Mar 08, 2010 3:19 pm

How strange the change from minor to major...Well, let us say that Nielsen composed at least three great symphonies - 4-6 - thus permanently modifying the meaning of "symphony" in the mind of civilisation. The concertos are not to be sneezed at, either. I don't know the operas and vocal music. Do not forget the great and unsurpassed pioneers of the Nielsen discography like Jensen, Gröndahl and Tuxen; I would like to add Kubelik (wonderful #5), Barbirolli and Markevitch (#4) to that list of great conductors - which seems quite impressive testimony to me, when I consider the paucity of leading conductors who have played or recorded Elgar's symphonies.

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Re: Why Don't More Conductors Take Up The Nielsen Symphonies ?

Post by slofstra » Mon Mar 08, 2010 3:31 pm

josé echenique wrote:
DavidRoss wrote:
josé echenique wrote:
DavidRoss wrote:
josé echenique wrote:And Nielsen isn´t the only major Danish composer relatively neglected, there´s also Hakon Börresen
Major composer?
Major...yeah, I would say so, don´t you think?
I don't know his work at all, so would be interested to "discover" a major composer previously unknown to me. I wonder, however, whether we agree about what makes a composer "major" in our eyes. I'm trying to listen to some of his music via Naxos, but for some reason am having a hard time logging in!
Well, he was not really a "major" composer like Mozart, Beethoven or Brahms, but among Danish composers, he was one of the most remarkable. Try to hear his Symphony #2 "The Sea" it´s a very nice work.
:lol: You did say "major Danish" which is different from "Danish major".

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Re: Why Don't More Conductors Take Up The Nielsen Symphonies ?

Post by stenka razin » Mon Mar 08, 2010 4:53 pm

After Tuxen, Jensen and Frandsen among other wonderful Danish conductors started the Nielsen ball rolling in the 1950's, it was Leonard Bernstein who sealed the deal with his impressive and classic accouints of the 3rd and 5th Symphonies in the early 1960's. I cannot give this Sony recording any higher recommendation that saying it is the Mount Everest of Nielsen symphony recordings. Get it and feel the thrill. :D :D :D :D **

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Re: Why Don't More Conductors Take Up The Nielsen Symphonies ?

Post by THEHORN » Mon Mar 08, 2010 6:09 pm

Nielsen's two operas , Saul and David and Maskarade, are vasrly different but wonderful, and deserve to be better-known.
The effervescent and witty Maskarade, from around 1902 is ranks with the best comic operas, and is considered the Danish national opera.
Don't miss the superb Decca recording conducted by Ulf Schirmer
with Bo Skovhus and the late Aage haugland if you can still find it.
The slightly earlier Saul and David is a powerful retelling of the Biblical story , as serious and weighty as Masakarade is light-heated.
If you can find the also superb Chandos recording of it ,also with Haugland as Saul , conducted by Neeme Jarvi, don't miss it either.
I haven't seen the DVD of Maskarade form the Copenhagen opera but hope to as soon as possible. If the Met were to do either of these operas, which is not too likely, but not impossible, I think audiences would love them.
I have a Chandos CD of three very interesting and enjoyable choral works by Nielsen conducted by Leif Segerstam, Hymnis Amoris,or hymn to love, Sleep, a depiction of the phenomenon of sleep complete with a
nightmare, and the charmingly folksy Springtime on Funen (the Danish island where Nielsen was born and grew up.)
The piano works have been recorded by a number of pianists, including Leif Ove Andsnes, and deserve to be heard on piano recitals more often. Pianists looking for interesting out of the way repertoire should explore them. How about it Emmanuiel Ax, Murray Perahia,
Lang Lang, et al?

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Re: Why Don't More Conductors Take Up The Nielsen Symphonies ?

Post by Jack Kelso » Tue Mar 09, 2010 10:31 am

Well, I haven't read Victor Bendix on this thread yet. I have all four of his very fine, personal symphonic creations, and while he composed during the period between Gade and Nielsen, both the older and younger masters admired his work.

Alas, he also is not one of the "major" composers such as Beethoven, Schumann, Bruckner or Mahler, but nevertheless occupies an important place in Danish musical history.

Tschüß,
Jack
"Schumann's our music-maker now." ---Robert Browning

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Re: Why Don't More Conductors Take Up The Nielsen Symphonies ?

Post by John F » Tue Mar 09, 2010 3:16 pm

There are loads of composers whose music is of high enough quality that it deserves to be heard more often than it is. All six of Nielsen's symphonies have gotten New York Philharmonic performances, several of them more than once. None of Franz Berwald's symphonies, however, though he's Sweden's foremost symphonist as Nielsen is Denmark's. Just one of many examples I might have given.

But we can hear Berwald's and Nielsen's music as often as we like, in outstanding performances. On records, of course, but there's nothing déclassé about that, is there?

And at least there's some degree of quality control. I'd rather hear a Michael Haydn symphony well played on a CD than mangled by an underrehearsed and bored Mostly Mozart Orchestra under the likes of Gerard Schwarz - my hopes that the audience might discover a worthy composer I like very much, were dashed by the performance, which was more likely to put them off Michael Haydn altogether.
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Re: Why Don't More Conductors Take Up The Nielsen Symphonies ?

Post by Jack Kelso » Tue Mar 09, 2010 4:02 pm

John F wrote:There are loads of composers whose music is of high enough quality that it deserves to be heard more often than it is. All six of Nielsen's symphonies have gotten New York Philharmonic performances, several of them more than once. None of Franz Berwald's symphonies, however, though he's Sweden's foremost symphonist as Nielsen is Denmark's. Just one of many examples I might have given.

But we can hear Berwald's and Nielsen's music as often as we like, in outstanding performances. On records, of course, but there's nothing déclassé about that, is there?

And at least there's some degree of quality control. I'd rather hear a Michael Haydn symphony well played on a CD than mangled by an underrehearsed and bored Mostly Mozart Orchestra under the likes of Gerard Schwarz - my hopes that the audience might discover a worthy composer I like very much, were dashed by the performance, which was more likely to put them off Michael Haydn altogether.
Dausgaard's Berwald cycle is stupendous ( :D as long as you've mentioned the Swedish master!), far more precise, dramatic and poetic than Neeme Järvi's Berwald (I have both). Dausgaard takes his time to let the melodic lines open and spread out, as well as punctuating Berwald's fine sense for instrumentation.

Also highly recommended are the First and Second Symphonies of Sinding (also with Dausgaard/Hannover). The Third and Fourth are with Rasilainen (Norwegian Radio Orch.) on apex, also excellent.

Sorry for getting off the subject a bit.....

Tschüß,
Jack
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Re: Why Don't More Conductors Take Up The Nielsen Symphonies ?

Post by Chalkperson » Tue Mar 09, 2010 4:37 pm

Jack Kelso wrote:Sorry for getting off the subject a bit.....

Tschüß,
Jack
No need to apologize, as you did not mention Dausgaard's rather tepid traversal of Schumann's Symphonies, or should that be Dausgaard's traversal of Schumann's rather tepid Symphonies... :wink:

That's a winking smiley, meaning a humorous and playful comment, it's not an Act of Piracy...
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Re: Why Don't More Conductors Take Up The Nielsen Symphonies ?

Post by Jack Kelso » Wed Mar 10, 2010 4:24 am

Chalkperson wrote:
Jack Kelso wrote:Sorry for getting off the subject a bit.....

Tschüß,
Jack
No need to apologize, as you did not mention Dausgaard's rather tepid traversal of Schumann's Symphonies, or should that be Dausgaard's traversal of Schumann's rather tepid Symphonies... :wink:

That's a winking smiley, meaning a humorous and playful comment, it's not an Act of Piracy...
I've haven't heard them, Chalkie. But going on what you say I won't go out of my way to look into Dausgaard's Schumann either. I only have the "non-tepid" Schumann conductors in my collection (Levine, Sawallisch, Muti, etc.).

Tschüß,
Jack
"Schumann's our music-maker now." ---Robert Browning

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Re: Why Don't More Conductors Take Up The Nielsen Symphonies ?

Post by DavidRoss » Wed Mar 10, 2010 10:49 am

slofstra wrote: :lol: You did say "major Danish" which is different from "Danish major".
Is it? They read the same to me, though it's clear that you read one as suggesting that he's a major composer who happens to be Danish and the other as suggesting that he's "major" only in relation to other composers of the same nationality.

Suffice it to say that Nielsen, unlike Børresen, ranks among the major composers regardless of nationality. Not in the first rank, to be sure, but only a dozen at most qualify for that status as I see it. But his remarkable symphonies alone--not to mention his concertos, his theatrical music, his quartets, and his wonderful WW5tet--put him solidly in the second rank, along with the likes of Dvořák, Puccini, Wagner, Schubert, Berlioz, and maybe even Schumann if I can remain generous in spite of another's determination to make us all detest him.
"Most men, including those at ease with problems of the greatest complexity, can seldom accept even the simplest and most obvious truth if it would oblige them to admit the falsity of conclusions which they have delighted in explaining to colleagues, which they have proudly taught to others, and which they have woven, thread by thread, into the fabric of their lives." ~Leo Tolstoy

"It is the highest form of self-respect to admit our errors and mistakes and make amends for them. To make a mistake is only an error in judgment, but to adhere to it when it is discovered shows infirmity of character." ~Dale Turner

"Anyone who doesn't take truth seriously in small matters cannot be trusted in large ones either." ~Albert Einstein
"Truth is incontrovertible; malice may attack it and ignorance may deride it; but, in the end, there it is." ~Winston Churchill

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Re: Why Don't More Conductors Take Up The Nielsen Symphonies ?

Post by pizza » Wed Mar 10, 2010 1:00 pm

I believe Nielsen is a major composer who ranks with the very best of the symphonists, and as already posted, it's obvious that many conductors agree. I can recall superb performances back in the '60s by Martinon and the CSO of his 4th, and by Morton Gould, of his 2nd. I have excellent recordings of the symphonies by both conductors, as well as complete cycles by some others mentioned here. I also heard a fine live performance of the 4th recently by the JSO conducted by Leon Botstein; the timpanists' duel in the final movement was spectacular! For those interested, I believe Robert Simpson's book on Nielsen can still be found.

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Re: Why Don't More Conductors Take Up The Nielsen Symphonies ?

Post by Jack Kelso » Thu Mar 11, 2010 10:26 am

DavidRoss wrote:
slofstra wrote: :lol: You did say "major Danish" which is different from "Danish major".
Is it? They read the same to me, though it's clear that you read one as suggesting that he's a major composer who happens to be Danish and the other as suggesting that he's "major" only in relation to other composers of the same nationality.

Suffice it to say that Nielsen, unlike Børresen, ranks among the major composers regardless of nationality. Not in the first rank, to be sure, but only a dozen at most qualify for that status as I see it. But his remarkable symphonies alone--not to mention his concertos, his theatrical music, his quartets, and his wonderful WW5tet--put him solidly in the second rank, along with the likes of Dvořák, Puccini, Wagner, Schubert, Berlioz, and maybe even Schumann if I can remain generous in spite of another's determination to make us all detest him.
Don't worry, David. Your "generosity" doesn't make Schumann greater than he already is! :wink:

Tschüß,
Jack
"Schumann's our music-maker now." ---Robert Browning

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